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Why We Explore the Oceans

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Question: What do you do as National \r\nGeographic's\r\nexplorer-in-residence?

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Sylvia\r\nEarle: As explorer in\r\nresidence at the National Geographic I have license to play.  I have a relatively long leash to be\r\nable to do what the title suggests, go explore.  It’s\r\n really great to have the backing of that\r\ninstitution.  They give me a little\r\nnest in Washington D.C. and the support to go out and put together \r\nexpeditions,\r\nto find the resources, to do what I try to do best, that is to explore,\r\nresearch, understand and take care of the ocean, especially the wild, \r\nnatural\r\nparts of the sea.

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Question: How does the undersea world \r\nrelate to our life\r\non land?

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Sylvia Earle: People have been exploring \r\nfrom the surface\r\nfor as long as people have been getting to the ocean, but getting into \r\nthe\r\nocean is still tricky business and it’s only in very recent times that \r\nwe’ve\r\nhad the technology that can take us more than as deep as you can go \r\nholding\r\nyour breath.  Perhaps some people\r\ndid that centuries ago, but to actually go down and stay awhile, to be \r\nable to\r\ngo to 1,000 feet, 10,000 feet, ultimately the full ocean depth, that \r\ntakes more\r\nthan we carry around with us in our skin. \r\nYou need to have technology as a partner.  Why,\r\n because that is where the action is.  That is \r\nwhere most of life on earth\r\nis.  That is where most of the\r\nwater is.  97% of Earth’s water is\r\nocean.  Without the ocean, without\r\nwater Earth would be much like Mars, a bleak, barren, inhospitable place\r\n for\r\nthe likes of us and the rest of life on Earth as well.  I\r\n somehow understood this from an early\r\nstage imagining first of all what does the ocean… what is the ocean and \r\nthen\r\nwhat would it be like without the ocean? \r\nOne thing that we didn’t know when I first began exploring was \r\nhow\r\nextensive the mountains and valleys or even life itself is in the sea, \r\nthe\r\ndiscovery of mountain ranges, of plate tectonics, the processes that \r\ndrive the\r\nmovement of continents that shape the character of oceans.  Oceans come and go over long periods of\r\ntime.  Those things have only come\r\ninto focus during the 20th century, mostly during the latter part of the\r\n 20th\r\ncentury and so far we have only seen about well 5% of the ocean.  It’s a huge part of the solar system,\r\nthis planet that has not been looked at even once let alone put on the \r\nballot\r\nsheet with respect to understanding how the world works and why we need \r\nto take\r\ncare of the ocean.


Recorded April 14th, 2010

Interviewed by Austin Allen

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97% of Earth’s water is ocean. Without the ocean, Earth would be much like Mars: a bleak, barren, inhospitable place.

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